A number of smartwatches have come and gone over the years–a cursory search for smartwatches on eBay will reveal a vast assortment of makes and models–but Apple’s latest take on the genre has been hands down the most anticipated of the lot. And with its announcement in September 2014 alongside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the Apple Watch could finally win the hearts and minds of consumers looking for the ultimate timepiece-cum-computing device. Though it won’t be available until next year, Apple has made many details about its newest hot ticket entrant to the wearables category. The following is a breakdown of what is known so far regarding the Apple Watch.
Hardware and Features
Though not strictly powered by iOS, the Apple Watch is instead touted as being “iOS-friendly”–meaning that much of the device’s functionality is drawn from a paired iOS device. The Watch cannot be synced via USB like a standard iOS device–all data transfer is accomplished via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection to the host device. For example, the watch displays real-time notifications regarding mail, messages, and calls from a connected iPhone. Unfortunately, it only works with the latest models, namely 5, 5C, 5S, 6, or 6 Plus.
As far as power is concerned, the device is charged through a magnetic inductive charger–which means no cables or plugs need to be attached. One end of the charger simply snaps to the back of the phone, with the other end going to the wall outlet. No information is available yet regarding battery life, and current similar offerings by the competition vary widely: Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch lasts a day, while the Pebble watches can remain powered for up to a week.
One standout feature of the Apple Watch is the digital crown, which reimagines the conventional analog timepiece winding dial into a combination home button and zoom/scroll wheel. Along with another accompanying button adjacent to the digital crown, the device offers a full range of manipulation and control, despite the small form factor and limited screen real estate. Standard swiping and tapping is also possible on the touch-enabled face.
Other features include integrated NFC (near field communication), enabling the Watch to pair/interact with other NFC-enabled devices for functionality such as music playback or transit payment, and 4 built-in infrared and LED heart rate sensors protected by sapphire glass, providing data to the Watch’s health and fitness apps.
Software and Apps
As mentioned earlier, the Apple Watch derives much of its functionality through a paired iPhone, allowing it for example to display notifications from the iOS device. On its own, the Watch inherently supports activity and fitness tracking through its Health app, payments through Apple Pay, music playback, and device voice-control through Siri. And similar to the Pebble phones, the face of the Watch can be customized with 11 different displays, with presumably many more on the horizon.
Release Date, Price, and Models
According to the Apple website, the Watch won’t be available until early 2015. The base model version will retail in Australia for $379, with two other models, the Sport and Edition, likely to cost a bit more: As its name implies, the Sport edition is a heftier version of the standard for sports and outdoors enthusiasts: a lightweight anodized aluminum case, strengthened Ion-X glass, and a fluoroelastomer band make it more suitable for harsher operating environments. The Edition is the more regal offering, featuring an 18-carat gold casing and polished sapphire crystal display. Further customization can be had with a wide assortment of custom bands.